Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Commissioner Dunn Opposes Federal Land Grab in Senate Energy Bill: “A Slap in the Face to New Mexico’s School Children”

Commissioner Dunn Opposes Federal Land Grab in Senate Energy Bill: “A Slap in the Face to New Mexico’s School Children”

Santa Fe, NM (April 27, 2016) – New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn today issued the following statement in opposition to an aspect of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (S. 2012), which passed the United States Senate on April 20, 2016, on the basis that the legislation will take away land from State Land Trust beneficiaries – including public school children – for new wilderness area designations in New Mexico.

Commissioner Dunn states:

“Following a review and analysis of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, I am strongly opposed to a portion of this legislation as sponsored by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and supported by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The Senate energy bill seeks to designate 21,420 acres within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico, for the purpose of creating the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness areas. President Obama’s 2013 designation of Rio Grande del Norte has already impacted 38,788 acres of State Trust Lands, which were originally set aside by Congress in the Enabling Act of 1910 for the benefit of public schools, universities, hospitals and other important institutions in New Mexico.

The Senate’s new wilderness area designation encompasses 1,280 acres of State Trust Lands. With low oil prices already impacting revenues from State Trust Lands, the designation of these new wilderness areas will only add insult to injury and further reduce revenues in support of New Mexico’s school children. In total, the federal government has set aside 162,000 acres of State Trust Lands in recent years for national monuments, wilderness study areas and conservation agreements for threatened species in New Mexico. The fact that the Senate is authorizing this new land grab without providing any acreage in exchange to the State Land Trust is tantamount to a slap in the face to New Mexico’s school children.

Congress can fix this problem by transferring or exchanging federal acreage from the Bureau of Land Management to the New Mexico State Land Office for the benefit of our State Land Trust. I originally proposed this idea to New Mexico’s congressional delegation during a visit to Washington in February. Such a deal would ensure that the State Land Trust remains whole and intact as we seek to maintain revenues for public school children and other important beneficiaries.”

The State Land Office is responsible for administering 9 million acres of surface and 13 million acres of subsurface estate for the beneficiaries of the State Land Trust, which includes schools, universities, hospitals and other important public institutions.


Way to go Commissioner Dunn! First the NM legislators speak up on the mouse/water issue, and now a state-wide elected official steps forward on wilderness lockup legislation. 

Please take the time to thank Aubrey Dunn by either phone, 505.

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